SM owns all TWILIGHT characters. I merely borrow them for amusement's sake.
The Twilight Twenty-Five
Prompt #: 5
Pen name: IngenueFic
Photos for prompts can be found here:
Like to Stay
How can he make a promise when he doesn't know if it can be kept?
She watched him during the family dinner, smiling when tiny lines formed at the corners of his eyes when he laughed, holding back tears when his mouth fell slack with worry. It was early in the day, too early to be eating, but Bella had asked Edward for more time alone that night, a request he had promised to grant to the best of his ability. His eyes had been soft when he kissed her earlier that day and said the family would be there at 4:30, an hour and a half before the original start time.
"Hey," Rosalie called to her quietly. A perfectly manicured hand rested on her arm and Bella looked up at her. "It will be okay."
With a swallow of the worry plaguing her mind, Bella gave her a forced smile before she picked up the large bowl of salad. She felt Edward's eyes on her the second she walked into the dining room. Changing her course slightly, she walked behind his chair to drop a kiss into his hair where the newly shorn cut tickled her lips, before she found a place to set the bowl amidst the other food.
Dinner was quieter than usual. Edward's impending departure hung heavy over the occupants of the dining table despite attempts to lighten the mood. When the silent tension became too much for Bella, she stood, but stilled when a soft sob sounded from the other end of the table. Her head whipped around and her breath hitched when she saw Esme holding a hand to her mouth in an attempt to quell her cries.
"Mom." Edward stood quickly and went to her side. He crouched between his parents' chairs and wrapped his arms around his mother's waist. She held him close, whispering words that only Edward could hear, and he nodded. "I'll be careful," Edward said to her before hugging her tighter.
He stood up when he heard dishes clattering but Bella waved him away, told him to speak with his parents while she cleaned up the table. Rosalie and Jasper stood to help her and, when everything was brought into the kitchen, the three of them stood by the sink to allow the Cullen family some time together.
"Bella," Rosalie began.
"Don't," Bella responded quickly. She turned her body away from her future in-laws and pushed the curtains back from the window above the sink. The sky was darkening slowly and she stared at nothing. Through the window, she saw Rosalie's reflection stand behind her and Bella shook her head as she said, "I don't want to hear you say it will be okay, Rose. You don't know that. I don't know that. No one does."
"What?" She spun around and took a deep breath when she saw Edward standing in the entryway between the kitchen and the dining room. "I'm sorry," she said immediately.
His eyebrows drew together and his mouth evened into a straight line, a look Bella knew meant he was either angry or uncertain. "My parents are leaving. They wanted to say good-bye." With a nod, Bella walked towards him, pausing only when his hand stopped her. Her face turned upwards but her eyes focused more on his ear than his gaze. "I love you," he said lowly. "You know that, don't you?"
She nodded. "I know." There was a tightening in her chest but she pushed it away for the time being and gave him the same fake smile she had been giving everyone for the past month.
Carlisle gave her a quick hug by the door after making her promise to call if she needed anything. Esme's hug was longer, tighter, and Bella almost broke down in her arms. Pulling away, Bella bid them a good night, tensing slightly when she felt Edward at her back. His hand was heavy and warm at the base of her spine but there was a sense of comfort that wrapped around her. Esme shifted and lifted a hand up to Edward's face, trailing a hand down his cheek as she said, "My sweet boy."
"I'll be back," Edward promised. "I'll come home."
They left without any other fanfare which left the siblings and their significant others in the new house. The six of them moved into the living room, still unfurnished with the exception of the couch and love seat, where Emmett pulled his brother aside for a private conversation. At one point, Jasper wandered over to them, and Bella was left with the two women she would soon call sisters.
The silence was almost unbearable between the three women. It was a new experience, not having anything to talk about, but Bella refused to speak of Edward leaving. She struggled for something to say, coming up with only, "Did you want coffee? Or tea?"
"No, thank you," Rosalie said with a slow blink of her lashes. Next to her, Alice shook her head as well, and Bella decided not to say anything else.
It wasn't long before the familiar weight of Edward's hand was on her shoulder and she watched through a slightly unfocused gaze as the others gathered their belongings and made their way to the door. Edward said good-bye to them, his voice cracking a bit when Alice jumped into his arms and demanded he come home soon so she could continue helping Bella with the wedding plans and so he could continue choosing furniture for the house.
The moment the door was locked, Bella felt the strength leave her body as she sagged against Edward's side, making him pitch forward to catch her before she fell to the floor. He said nothing but ran his fingers through the long strands of her hair in an effort to comfort her.
After a few minutes she straightened up and swiped at her cheeks where a few tears had made tracks. "I should go clean up," she said quietly. Edward held her close, not wanting to let go of her, but she shifted in the circle of his arms. "I won't take long, I promise."
With a sigh, he let go of her and pressed a kiss at the center of her forehead. "I'm going to shower." Bella nodded in response and Edward closed his eyes as he breathed in her scent – a mixture of a light, floral perfume and the aroma of the food she had cooked earlier. "Come up soon."
"I will," she said before turning away and walking to the kitchen. With each swipe of soap on the dishes and every run of her hands beneath the stream of water, Bella allowed her emotions to run wild. Fear gripped her heart. Worry made her stomach clench. Love burst through her veins.
Edward was still in the bathroom when she entered the bedroom though the shower was no longer running. She stared out the open bedroom door as if she could hear what he was doing across the hall but only silence met her. With a heavy sigh, she moved to stand by the dresser and began to undo the buttons of the simple dress she had worn for dinner. She paused when she noticed an envelope on the dresser with her name written across it in Edward's writing. Just as she was about to reach out for it, the bathroom door opened and Edward stepped across the hall into the bedroom.
Slow but determined steps brought Edward before her and Bella tilted her head back with coaxing from Edward's hand at the juncture of her neck and jaw. "Open it after I leave," he said with a nod towards the envelope.
"What is it?" She couldn't help but ask even though she already knew he would never tell her.
"Tomorrow," he whispered against her mouth as he lowered his face to hers. "No words for now, not tonight."
Bella parted her lips to taste him, to let him taste her. Edward's skin was still warm from the shower and his palms smoothed the goose bumps on her skin as he undid the rest of the buttons of her dress, just enough to push the fabric off of her shoulders. Once she was free from the light cotton material, Bella twined her arms up over Edward's shoulder and around his neck, tugging him downwards to hold him as close as possible.
"Don't go," she murmured when she pulled away. A sigh escaped Edward's lips, a sad sound mixed with regret and the tiniest bit of annoyance. Bella tightened her arms around him, moving to stand on her toes, as she continued. "I know you have to but, Edward, I don't... I can't..."
"Shh," he hushed her and pushed her body away from his slightly so he could look at her, really look at the woman he loved. "Bella," he began.
"Don't make promises you can't keep," she interrupted him. Her eyes shut and she stepped forward again to lean her forehead against his bare chest. "Don't tell me that... that you'll come back to me."
"Bella, love, I will do my best to come back to you," Edward gave her the best promise he could. "I will do everything in my power to stay alive, to come back to you so we can get married and have a family."
She said his name softly. Her voice caressed his skin and he led her to the bed. They sat at the edge and Bella curled against his side. His hands stroked the skin of her waist until she looked up at him with wide eyes that begged for him in every possible way. The corners of his lips quirked upwards the slightest bit and he leaned down to kiss her, a soft pressure on her lips that grew more desperate as the seconds ticked away.
Time ceased to exist as they came together for what Bella thought could potentially be the last time. The tears trickled from the corners of her eyes as Edward held her, rocking into her until they were joined in an intimate embrace, and she breathed his name with hitched syllables and broken cries.
She stayed awake afterwards. While Edward shifted restlessly through the midnight hour and into the early morning, Bella stared at him and tried to memorize every line of his face, every curve and cut of his body. Her fingers hovered above his skin as she committed his warmth, his voice, everything about him, to memory. She was still awake when the alarm clock on Edward's side of the bed rang clearly in the silent room.
He groaned and blinked wearily up at the ceiling before he turned to look at her. His face softened into a sad smile as his fingers traced the curve of her jaw to her chin. "Did you sleep?"
She shook her head as Edward sat up in bed with the blanket pooling around his waist. He sighed again and tugged her close to hold her against his body, warming her with his heat until she finally let out a sob. Her hands scrambled to hold him, to touch him, to keep him close, and Edward didn't even bother to shush her cries this time. While still holding her, he reached to his side and turned the alarm off.
He sat with her for as long as he could but the minutes passed quickly and Edward had to change. Pulling away from Bella's embrace, Edward stood from the bed, leaving a kiss against her hair before moving to the bathroom. Bella listened as the water started for Edward to take another shower before he left. She wiped the tears from her face and stood as well. After pulling on a dressing robe, she went to the closet and pushed some of the hanging clothes to the side.
The uniform was perfectly pressed. Bella had hung it soon after Edward had brought it home and had refused to look at it. She had no choice now and she reached out to touch the wool uniform, the material slightly rough beneath the pads of her fingers. She undid the four buttons of the jacket and draped it over her arm before pulling the pants from its position over the hanger. With care, Bella laid both of the items down at the foot of the bed where the covers hadn't been too mussed.
"Thank you," Edward said quietly when he stepped back into the bedroom with a towel tucked around his waist. Bella said nothing as she sat at the small vanity table Edward had bought for her when they first moved into the house. She watched as he went to the dresser and pulled on his underwear and a plain white undershirt. He sat on her side of the bed as he pulled the dark socks on before he stood to move to the dresser again, this time so he could take out the button-down shirt of the same, plain color.
Bella continued to watch him silently as he stepped into the trousers, tucking his shirt in before he buttoned and zipped the pants. When he slid the cotton tie around his neck, Bella stood up and walked to him, making sure the collar was up while she knotted the tie for him, before settling it back down in place. Her breath hitched as she took in the way the uniform settled against his body, the drab color bland against his pale skin. Without a word, she leaned around him and picked up the jacket, holding it open so he could slide his arms in easily.
He turned towards her and she moved to button the jacket but his hands stopped her. "Don't say anything," Bella said in a pleading voice. "I can't..."
"I love you." His hands were gentle as he cupped her face and kissed her once, twice, and then he let his arms drop and Bella continued to close the four buttons.
She walked with him to the front door, stopping only because she wasn't dressed to go outside. They had agreed to say good-bye in the house and Edward would go to the assigned meeting area by himself. Their arms wound around each other tightly as they stood by the door, Edward's uniform rough on Bella's exposed skin.
"Come home to me," she whispered into his neck as she stretched her body against his and he leaned down to her. "I love you."
"I'll do my best," he said just as quietly, still not promising to come home when he had no idea what would happen overseas. "Wait for me."
The kiss was packed heavily with emotion and desperation and when they parted, Bella touched her lips with her fingers, watching again as Edward disappeared for a few seconds to retrieve a packed duffel bag from the front hall closet. He slung it over his shoulder, his body tilting slightly with the added weight, and he leaned down to Bella for one more kiss.
The sound of the door shutting echoed loudly in the house. Bella couldn't bear to watch Edward walk down the driveway where she knew the taxi was waiting for him. Instead, she climbed the stairs to the second landing where she went to the bathroom to start a bath. She breathed in deeply when she realized the room was still drenched with the scent of Edward's soap.
Remembering the envelope on the dresser, Bella left the water to run and moved to the bedroom. The envelope was thin and she took the single piece of paper out to unfold it. Edward's handwriting was neat and Bella traced her fingers over the words he had written as though she could feel him through the paper. It was a short letter, a small note that gave her hope and promises, and Bella kissed his name at the bottom of the paper before folding it carefully again to leave it on the dresser.
It was the first of a series of letters, she soon found out. Every few weeks, a letter was delivered, a plain envelope bearing her name and address hidden amongst bills and catalogs. Bella soon found herself with a routine whenever a letter came. She never read it immediately, opting instead to stare at it in its imperfection of creases and fingerprints due to its traveling overseas.
Two nights was the longest she ever kept it unopened. Like the first one she had ever read, she only opened Edward's letters while she ran a bath to soak in after she read his words. With the water running in the background, she would sit at the vanity and use one of her hairpins to cut through the top of the envelope. Her fingers took out the sheets of paper – usually two sheets with writing on both sides – and unfolded them on her lap.
They were simple words that contained any information he could actually tell her. Usually, he spoke of his fellow soldiers, of the nights that seemed too long without Bella by his side. He would ask her how she was doing, if she missed him as much as he missed her, if she longed to hold him again the way his body ached to be next to her. At the end of every letter was a date followed by the words, "I'm doing my best as the days go by to be with you once more."
More often than not, Bella felt the tightening in her chest of impending tears, but she often held them at bay. She wouldn't cry for him, not when he was still alive in the trenches and writing to her. With the utmost care, she folded the letter again, following Edward's exact lines even if they weren't perfect and put the envelope into the second drawer of her vanity.
The bath calmed her after reading his words. On nights when she stayed home rather than go out with Rosalie and Alice, she opted to use Edward's soap, needing his scent on her and around her. Sleep always came more easily after she read Edward's letters; somewhere, she knew he was still breathing and finding his way back.
In the morning, after a quick breakfast, Bella smoothed a fresh piece of paper at the kitchen table and wrote a response to Edward. It was nonsensical for the most part but it gave her a sense of being close to him. When it was written, she folded the paper into a square and slid it into the pile of letters she was saving for Edward when he returned. She used a ribbon to tie them together in a neat little package and left them on the windowsill above the kitchen sink.
The weeks bled into months until almost a year had come and gone. Bella noticed that Edward's letters arrived more sporadically and they were much shorter as though he no longer had time to write everything he wanted to. When three months went by without a letter, Bella began to wonder when she would get the dreaded letter from the Army, before she realized that Edward's parents would probably receive it first.
She didn't talk to anyone about the dark turn her thoughts were talking, was too scared to speak her fears aloud. The lack of conversing with friends and family made it that much harder to see an unfamiliar car pull up the driveway on a Thursday when the sun was beginning to dip below the far horizon. She froze in her actions of washing the dishes from dinner and ignored Alice as the older woman asked what was wrong. Without saying a word, Bella turned off the faucet and walked to the front door, fear gripping her heart and squeezing until she almost stumbled.
"Bella?" First, Alice called her, then Rosalie but neither received an answer. They stood quickly from the kitchen table and followed Bella who was leaning against the door with her head bent. Her shoulders heaved up and down. "Bella, what's wrong?"
The doorbell rang and Bella let out a noise of discontent. She let out a whispered, "No," but the doorbell rang again when minutes passed.
"Bella, who's at the door?" Rosalie asked from behind her. Judging by Bella's reaction, Rosalie had a feeling who might be at the door, but wanted to stay positive. She carefully pulled Bella's shoulders back until she was off of the door. "Alice, open the door, would you?"
The man was unfamiliar but the uniform was the same one that Edward wore when he left. Once the door was opened and the three women were revealed, the soldier took off his cap and nodded his head. "M'am," he began but Bella let out a sob.
"No. No, no, no."
The soldier, who looked no more than 18, suddenly looked scared and he stared at Alice with wide eyes. "Uh," was all he said before he looked over his shoulder. "I don't think, that is..."
"Brighton, did you screw up the simple task of checking if anyone was home?"
Bella's head shot up from Rosalie's shoulder when she heard Edward's voice. "Edward?"
His smile was tired but genuine as he walked slowly to the door, leaning heavily on a walking cane. "Bella," he breathed.
"Edward!" Bella launched herself out of Rosalie's arms, past the soldier at her door, and threw her arms around Edward's neck. He staggered backwards, shooting a grateful look to the second soldier by his side when he steadied Edward. "You're home," she said through tears. "You're home and, oh God, what happened? Are you okay? You're alive, of course you're okay, but your leg. Is it your leg? What happened?"
"Shh, baby girl," Edward laughed lightly as he wrapped his free arm around her waist. Bella's hands moved to his face and she stared at him. "I'll be okay," he said. "But I'm home."
She said his name again, and for the moment, they were alone. The others disappeared from Bella's mind. All she saw was Edward in front of her. When their lips met, Bella tasted the salt of her tears, the breath from Edward's mouth, and she sighed her happiness at feeling him in her arms again.
"You came back," she breathed out when she pulled away.
"I had to," Edward said in a low voice, aware of his sisters and the other soldiers still waiting for a discharge. "I promised you I would."
Bella let out a teary chuckle. "No, you didn't."
His hand was warm on her cheek and his thumb swiped the skin beneath her eye in an attempt to get rid of the tears. "Maybe not to you," he confessed. "But I promised myself I'd come back for you, to you."
"Stay," Bella said. "Don't leave. Stay now."
Her head rested on his shoulder, her face turned into his neck, where little puffs of breath tickled him. Moving his hand to the back of her head, Edward shut his eyes and held her close. "I'm here," he promised. "I'm not going anywhere."
This was a lot longer than I expected it to be. "Thinking of You" by Katy Perry and its official music video was also a great inspiration to this particular story. Thanks to Jill and Jess for reading this as I wrote it. Love and thanks to Sara for her beta work.